Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Voices of reason can't be silenced

There are many outside observers wondering if Northern Ireland is yet again to be convulsed by violence as they see the graphic images of rioting on their television screens nightly.

Those doing the questioning range from influential journalists on international publications to nervous investors. Sending the wrong message to either could be disastrous for the province, particularly in its efforts to kick-start the economy. Business owners already here ponder whether it is wise to expand while those considering coming here could start looking for other destinations with a more favourable reputation.

Both would do well to read our reports on the views of people in east Belfast, which has become something of a cockpit for rioting in recent nights.

We have spent two days gathering reaction to the violence and feelings on the ground over the flags issue. These comments make for illuminating reading and give a truer reflection of what life is really like here than either the actions of rioters or the intemperate comments of some protest leaders.

There is no doubt that flags are a touchstone issue for very many in the unionist community. Symbols have always been important but the overwhelming response to our interviews from scores of people - a selection of which we publish today - is a rejection of violence as a way of resolving the problem. As has been said often before, the vast majority of people in this province do not want to return to dark days of daily turmoil.

Their voices may not be as strident as those of the protesters, but they make a lot more sense. They try to protect their teenage children from the violence, they lend no succour by either word or action to those who wish to riot, and they want the issue tackled through democratic means. And it is also clear that they reject many of those who claim to be community representatives.

They have spoken out eloquently and made it clear that the protection of their lives, their property and their livelihoods takes precedence over any symbols. The politicians - as well as outside observers - should take note.


From Belfast Telegraph